Not a good day
Trip Start Mar 29, 2006
232Trip End Feb 28, 2007
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We drove out of Prague in a north easterly direction to find those bloody glassworks. We were told they were near a town called Liberec just south of the border with Poland. We arrived in that town late morning, parked the car outside Tescos...of all places!...and made our way into town. It was distinctly different from other towns further south. No catering to the tourist here. It would be called a market town anywhere else. It had a Tesco, yes, but otherwise it was one main street of small shops with a square at one end with café tables spread over the cobbles. [What is it about cobbles in Europe. They are the most uncomfortable surface to walk on. In flat shoes the soles of your feet ache at the end of the day and in high heels they are the cause of many an accident and strained ankles. They must cause a lot of wear on car tyres as they roll noisily over the uneven stones. How do you balance a table and chairs on them. They are certainly long wearing, I'll grant you that. Some have been there for centuries. Time to go I say. They are not cute!] Locals were going about their business, mums were pushing prams and the bicycle was king of the road.
It was the strangest thing but we could not find a single shop that sold glassware or crystal. There was one jeweller and a lot of clothes shops. I thought this extraordinary. It would seem that all the output from the Bohemian glass factories, wherever they were, went directly to Prague and/or overseas. Nobody outside the capital was interested in the fine glassware. It was like trying to find a boomerang in Sutherland high street I suppose. So if the Liberecians were not interested why should they stock it.
We had hot drinks at a bar on the square where the waitresses were not very interested in us in spite of our struggle with the language. Nary a word of English here. [Fortunately the words 'tea' and 'coffee' are understood in most countries in the world. So is 'beer'. The rest you point at.] We did find a sign to an information place in what looked like the town hall so we took a punt and pushed open the door. Luckily the young lady there spoke some English...and she knew something of the local industries. She directed us to another town further south where she thought we might find a factory open but could not guarantee that they would open their doors to us. That decided it. We would give up our quest for the ultimate piece of fine crystal and go to Poland. We would quit this town but not before we had bought some bread rolls filled with ham and cheese from a bakery for our lunch.
We headed north to the Polish frontier. We had to show our passports again which were scrutinised carefully before we were allowed in. [I discovered later (although I had my suspicions then) that the rental agreement on our car did not permit travel to this ex-Eastern bloc country. We ran the risk of arrest and/or having the car impounded.]There was a distinct difference in the quality of roads and the housing which were both in need of repair and there seemed to be no pride taken in the outside of the homes. This was Poland as a westerner would imagine it to be whilst Czech was very unexpected in its uptake of capitalism. We were in just a small tail of Polish territory squeezed in between the Czech and German republics and we got lost. We could not find our way over to Germany territory. We had to cross the Nisa river and it was hard on our map to determine where the crossings were. We travelled up and down the same stretch of road and through a farming village until we eventually found the border crossing. We pulled over and ate our rolls so we could claim that we had breakfast in Czech, lunch in Poland and dinner in Germany. We were surrounded by tin sheds with shelves full of cartons of cigarettes each shed having one male and one female attendant. You work it out!
Another passport inspection and off we went to Dresden. Back in Germany it was like being on another planet. Large homes, well cared for gardens and fast cars. Route 6 took us westward across a rolling landscape of ploughed fields, cabbages but still no cows or sheep.
We entered Dresden from the east along the north shore of the river Elbe and followed the signs and Anne's directions to Centrum. As soon as we crossed the river into the old town our troubles began. The roads were very wide, six lanes of traffic, and although we could identify the Ibis hotel on our map we could not find a way in to it. We found ourselves caught up in streams of traffic and although I tried to keep heading towards our hotel we still ended up anywhere but. Either the road became one way or it was dug up with diversion signs sending us back whence we came. It was also dark and difficult to see where we were. All we could establish after our third circuit was that the hotel was in the middle of a shopping plaza...which explained why we could not drive in. Eventually we drove down into an underground car park under the plaza, walked up to the surface and across a mall to that welcome Ibis sign.
We checked in and were given instructions and a map as how to enter the public car park which we could now see behind the hotel. We walked back to the car, drove out and around to where the entrance to the car park was presumed to be but it was closed off due to road works. Around we went again looking for any thing to give us a clue as to how to get in...but nothing. There was another open car park at the end of the plaza so we were forced to park there whereupon we grabbed our cases and wheeled them across the dirt and gravel to the plaza. A 100 metres down the plaza and we were back at the hotel but I was not happy with that young man. He probably thought we were fools and I felt like one. What he had not explained was that it was a couple of hundred metres past those road works.
We took our cases up to the room, decided that we could not leave the car where it was. We walked down and into the car park where we were supposed to be and found the way in by walking out. We found the blocked off entrance (which could be exited) and walked those extra metres until we found the diversion and the way in. We walked back to the car, drove out and around a, now, very familiar circuit and parked practically beneath our hotel room. It was 6 Euros to park 24 hours which would take us nicely to the end of our rental period. We didn't have the money to feed the machine so while Anne went to smile at the hotel clerk I waited. That was it, I decided, I am not going to get into that car again in this city. Europcar can come and pick it up the next day...which they did.
We had not had a good day. We couldn't find my crystal factory, we got lost in Poland, we lost our hotel in Dresden, we did not have the park fee and then I spilt my conciliatory glass of whiskey over the hotel table. An identical table to the previous Ibis hotels. It was also equally as hot in the room but at least we could open the window.
An hour later we went for a walk to the end of the mall where the railway station was situated and from where we would 'set sail'the following day. [ Why is there no such term in the English language to 'set train' or 'set bus' to indicate the mode of travel. Mind you 'to set sail' is not exactly the right term in the 21st century.] Be prepared was our motto and we were pleased to note that the platform did not involve any stairs...it was at ground level. We had a meal in the station buffet which was a rip off but then railway food generally is. A captive clientele you could say. It was a buffet style but it was not clear as to what you paid for. I piled it on but was charged for about three plate fulls. They must have weighed it.
Back to the hotel room to catch up on the news but it was the first time ever that we had no English speaking channels. Even in the smallest village in the south of France there were English (or American) TV channels